The Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument in October on whether class and collective action waivers are enforceable. While employers await the Supreme Court’s decision, other courts continue to weigh in on the matter. Just last week, a New York State appellate court in Gold v. New York Life Ins. Co., 2017 NY Slip Op 05695 (App. Div. 1st Dep’t, July 18, 2017), found itself aligned with those federal circuit courts of appeal invalidating these waivers. Given the continuing disagreement among courts across the nation – both federal and state – as to whether the Federal Arbitration Act’s policy favoring arbitration should trump the National Labor Relations Act’s prohibition on contracts that restrict the rights of employees to engage in collective action, the need for clarity from the Supreme Court is more urgent than ever. Employment Matters will of course continue monitoring these important developments, so please check back in for regular updates.
George Patterson is an Associate based in the New York office. His practice focuses on all aspects of employment law, including discrimination, harassment, wage and hour issues, and other employment-related litigation and counseling. He also represents clients on labor and executive compensation matters. Prior to joining Mintz Levin, George practiced as an associate with other large firms, handling large-scale employment and commercial litigation matters.
In a decision that will provide some solace to employers asked to permit remote work as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently held that the ADA did not require the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to permit a litigation attorney to work from home indefinitely. In Credeur v. State of Louisiana, No. 16-30658 (5th Cir. June 23, 2017), the court determined that the employer did not fail to accommodate the attorney’s disability in violation of the ADA by denying her request to work remotely because it considered regular on-site attendance an essential function of her job and the statute and regulations required the court to “give the greatest weight to the employer’s judgment” on this issue.
The Second Circuit has denied a plaintiff’s request to rehear argument en banc (that is, before all of the court’s judges) in a case alleging that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. As the court is already scheduled to hear argument en banc on this issue in another case in September, the court’s decision is not especially surprising. As we’ve discussed in several posts (see here, here and here), the federal appeals courts are currently divided on this issue and it is likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide whether Title VII’s language prohibiting discrimination “because of … sex” is broad enough to encompass discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation.
We previously discussed the conflict between a Second Circuit panel’s holding in April that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the Seventh Circuit’s landmark ruling the same month reaching the opposite conclusion. The Second Circuit has now ordered en banc review of the April panel ruling, meaning that the entire court will rehear the case, and may be poised to follow the Seventh Circuit in extending Title VII to sexual orientation claims.
In a previous post we discussed the significant new obligations New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” imposes on employers that retain the services of freelance independent contractors. On May 15, these requirements became effective for all freelance contracts executed on or after that date. Some of the law’s key provisions include the requirements that freelance services in excess of $800 be detailed in written contracts and that employers provide payment for freelance services within 30 days, and a prohibition on retaliation against freelancers who exercise their rights under the law.
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Labor Policy Standards has issued some limited initial guidance on the law but, as we discussed in our earlier post, numerous questions remain concerning the law’s practical implications. Please stay tuned to Employment Matters for updates as we continue to monitor this law’s impact on companies that rely on freelance workers.
The Second Circuit said last week that an employer violated the National Labor Relations Act when it fired an employee who criticized a supervisor on Facebook during an election. The catch here is that the Second Circuit reached this conclusion even though the employee used profanity and hurled personal insults at the supervisor as part of his criticism. As we discussed in a post at the time of the NLRB’s initial determination, while the employee’s conduct pushed the boundaries of protected concerted activity under the NLRA, the fact that the post contained an express pro-union message and occurred in the heat of a campaign contributed to the finding that the termination was unlawful.
As we observed in a recent post on the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College extending Title VII to sexual orientation claims, the Supreme Court will probably have to resolve the disagreement among the federal circuit courts over whether the statutory language “because of…sex” should be interpreted to include “because of…sexual orientation.” And sure enough, on the heels of one Second Circuit panel decision late last month that refused to extend Title VII to cover sexual orientation, a different panel of that court again declined last week to reverse its own precedent, finding that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination does not extend to discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees based purely on their sexual orientation.
Our colleagues at the ADR blog have published the first of a series of posts discussing the dilemmas inherent in attempting to resolve class claims through arbitration. In Is ‘Class Arbitration’ an Oxymoron? Mintz Member Gil Samberg considers the challenges of adjudicating class claims, which are based on the rules of civil procedure, through the purely contractual mechanism of commercial arbitration, and notes that the Supreme Court has yet to definitively approve of this approach. For an insightful look at the current state of the law as well as the broader implications of class arbitrations, you can find the post here.
In a landmark en banc decision rejecting its earlier panel ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appellate court to hold that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. While the employer in the case, Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, No. 15-1720 (7th Cir. April 4, 2017), has indicated that it does not intend to appeal the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, the conflict between the court’s holding and recent Second and Eleventh Circuit decisions makes it likely that this issue will reach the Supreme Court in the near future.
Employers implement employee training programs for a variety of reasons, such as furthering professional development and improving poor performance, ensuring compliance with information security protocols and competence using company systems and reducing legal exposure by ensuring that employees receive formal instruction on equal employment, discrimination and harassment policies. And just as a rigorous practice schedule can ensure that a team brings its “A” game to the NCAA tournament, companies that invest the time and resources to train their employees properly stand a greater chance of avoiding many of the problems that often result from a poorly trained workforce, such as excessive turnover, decreased morale and costly discrimination and harassment lawsuits.